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What is the current state of recycling in the UK?

29th July 2014 by Alessandro Maccioni
Food and Drink Cans in Recycling Bin

This week on our rubbish removal blog, we’ll be taking a look at the current state of recycling in Britain and have a look at what needs to be done to tidy up our current approach.

Photo taken by Tom Morris, no changes made, shared under the Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Photo taken by Tom Morris, no changes made, shared under the Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

In the UK, recycling has become a part of every home’s rubbish removal routine. Whether you collect bottles and cans, cardboard or take your waste to the dump to be sorted, one thing’s for certain – we’ve all recycled at some point. But while recycling has become a part of all our lives in this country, what’s not so clear is how far the UK has come in its recycling efforts and where it stands now in the EU recycling standings.

In terms of how far this country has come, we can certainly pat ourselves on the back, but there is still much work to be done. At the turn of the millennium, over 90% of our waste was thrown on landfill sights – buried deep underground in mines once we had extracted all of the valuable minerals. Because we relied so heavily on this process it meant we were late to board the recycling train. While we now recycle 43.% of our waste – a commendable improvement from 15 years ago – we still lag behind half of Europe in the EU recycling league, and well behind Denmark in top spot.

It’s a necessity for us to up our efforts. EU regulations state that at least 70% of household waste has to be recycled by 2020, landfilling recycling waste will be banned by 2025, and 80% of packaging waste will have to be recycled another 5 years after that.

The greatest restriction so far to our recycling schemes has been the cost. To send just one tonne of rubbish to landfill it costs £100. However rather than shy away from these heavy prices now is the time to invest in our recycling schemes – while it may cost £100 a tonne to landfill rubbish, some materials are worth £300 a tonne if they are properly collected and recycled.

In terms of lost revenue, this soon adds up. The call to action now is now to embrace the ‘circular economy’ – which is in effect an economy which has no waste, rather resources are used, collected, reproduced and reused.

The Circular Economy Task Force’s latest report on ‘inconsistent recycling’ reveals that our 376 refuse management authorities in the UK are missing out on a potential of £1.7bn revenue from recycled food, plastics and electronics. At the moment just 30% of plastics are being recycled and two thirds are being exported – mainly to China. We are also well behind with our recycled electronics at 2% when this figure could be a healthy 23%.

And this isn’t just blowing hot air, the figures show that if we were able to capitalise on recycling in the same way that Denmark has, we would be able to lower our council tax bills by £61 a year per household.

If you have any recycling and rubbish removal needs in London, please get in touch with one of the JunkWize team today.

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